“The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
I recently completed level two Shambhala training. For those of you who do not know what Shambhala is, allow me to explain myself. Shambhala is a form of Tibetan Buddhism in which I have been practicing for over a year now. Last fall I attended level one training, a meditation retreat on basic goodness. Called the Art of Being Human. This level two retreat is called the Birth of the Warrior.
Pretty epic don’t you think? Grab the Samaria swords and don’t mess with me.
Kidding. This warrior-ship is the one that happens inside and radiates outward. It is a warrior-ship of learning. Learning to be gentle with yourself and looking honestly at the true nature of your feelings.
In Tibetian warrior means – one who is brave. How better to be brave than to look at what you fear the most? I mean really look at it?
Needless to say, this meditation retreat was one that was filled with internal adversity. Me against me.
I guess in a basic sense we all know what our fears are. They first come out as strong defensive emotions. Like anger, closedness, prejudices, racism, greed, jealousy.
All of those fiery emotions are our first defenders. Protectors of our true fears. We all operate this way. Every single one of us. In fact, because we all do this is one of the big reasons why we are all so blind to our real fears in the first place. Our cowardice as humans has been taught as an acceptable means of protection for centuries by our parents and society. No one is spared by fear and no one is spared by the aggression it leads to.
I went into this weekend retreat thinking that I already intellectually knew what my fears were. No problem. I am afraid of death, afraid of hurt, afraid of failure. You know the usual. Deep down we all know what we fear.
But why do we leave it at that? Why do we ignore it? Why do we know but not deal with it?
Because it is too painful to look at fear. Because we wouldn’t know what to do if we really understood the nature of our fears anyway. How could we?
Think about the last time you got angry with someone. Why did you get mad? Was it because they disrespected you? What does that mean? Disrespect is the fear of potential lack of love, it is the fear of invisibility, it is the fear of powerlessness. Contemplating our emotions is more powerful than you might know.
If you peel off even one layer of a habitual reaction you will experience a whole new perspective of your emotions. It may be disrespect that makes you angry but it makes you angry because you fear a lack of power. That is the true root.
It is pretty amazing.
If you think about the last time you were afraid of something and were actually aware of it. Like when a family member was sick or late coming home and you didn’t know where they were. This is fear of abandonment, loss, pain.
It is everywhere, our fears are everywhere at all times.
When you take the time to contemplate your emotions and actually feel and see your fear for what it is instead of responding in your habitual way you can begin to transform the power they have over you.
Fear is a fire and it will grow wild with the more oxygen you give it. Fearlessness is like a welcome rain it is natural like our basic goodness. Putting out the fire and bringing to life the forest again. The trees were always there, the earth, the sky they were just smothered unable to be in a natural state. there needs to be a balance between all parts of us. The only thing that changes is your perspective and the only thing that grows is what you give the energy and feed. Will you embrace the rain or the fire? If you feed the fire no amount of rain will help the forest grow.
To reach a state of true fearlessness you need to first look at the nature of your fears. Look at your protective coating you have formed to keep you from touching your fear. What kind of cage have you created to trap your fears safe inside?
Some fears stay with us forever and that is a part of our human experience. If you fear a loved one dying that feeling may stay there forever. However, the more you look at fear the less of a stranger it will become to you. The more you look at your fears the more you can have compassion for yourself and your pain.
During this retreat, we were taught to put fear in the cradle of loving-kindness. A wishy-washy term for some I am sure. However, this is the most powerful thing you can do.
How can you have compassion for your fear?
The next time you are afraid, angry, or in pain try the steps below before responding.
I believe that through loving kindness, contemplation and compassion you can free yourself from the restrictive power of pain. You can stop projecting your fears onto others as their job to solve and learn to look within. Learn to be fearless.
People who are prejudiced, racist and mean are not hateful cruel creatures. They are extremely fearful. They have allowed fear to control their view on the world. How could having compassion for their fears change them?
To become a warrior is to stand toe to toe with fear, look at it and battle it with compassion.
At the end of the retreat, I came face to face with a fear of mine that was so big and hidden that it took days for me to see the cage deep inside I was keeping it in.
I feel ready to fight my big fears and continue on my path to becoming a warrior.
Are you ready to be brave? Are you ready to stop the blame, hate, righteousness? Ready to peel back the layers of your habitual responses in order to live authentically as you? No chains no cages, just you?
If you are then you are ready to be born a warrior too. If you are then you are ready to become fearless.